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Topological diversity of chromatin fibers: Interplay between nucleosome repeat length, DNA linking number and the level of transcription

1 Laboratory of Cell Biology, National Cancer Institute, NIH Bethesda, MD 20892, USA;
2 Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences, Rochester Institute of Technology, 85 Lomb Memorial Drive, Rochester, NY 14623, USA

Special Issues: Chromatin and Epigenetics

The spatial organization of nucleosomes in 30-nm fibers remains unknown in detail. To tackle this problem, we analyzed all stereochemically possible configurations of two-start chromatin fibers with DNA linkers L = 10-70 bp (nucleosome repeat length NRL = 157-217 bp). In our model, the energy of a fiber is a sum of the elastic energy of the linker DNA, steric repulsion, electrostatics, and the H4 tail-acidic patch interaction between two stacked nucleosomes. We found two families of energetically feasible conformations of the fibers—one observed earlier, and the other novel. The fibers from the two families are characterized by different DNA linking numbers—that is, they are topologically different. Remarkably, the optimal geometry of a fiber and its topology depend on the linker length: the fibers with linkers L = 10n and 10n + 5 bp have DNA linking numbers per nucleosome DLk >>-1.5 and -1.0, respectively. In other words, the level of DNA supercoiling is directly related to the length of the inter-nucleosome linker in the chromatin fiber (and therefore, to NRL). We hypothesize that this topological polymorphism of chromatin fibers may play a role in the process of transcription, which is known to generate different levels of DNA supercoiling upstream and downstream from RNA polymerase. A genome-wide analysis of the NRL distribution in active and silent yeast genes yielded results consistent with this assumption.
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Copyright Info: © 2015, Victor B. Zhurkin, et al., licensee AIMS Press. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licese (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)

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